MIAMI -- The Miami Heat had the home court, the momentum and -- most importantly -- Tim Hardaway.
It was all too much for the dazed New York Knicks, who served their suspensions, and now will sit out the rest of the playoffs.
Hardaway scored 38 points and the Heat outscored New York by 15 points from three-point range yesterday to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, 101-90. The Knicks became only the sixth team in NBA playoff history to blow a 3-1 series lead.
"There's no way to describe it," New York's Allan Houston said. "It's disbelief. It's shock."
Miami's reward will be a date against Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the conference finals beginning tomorrow night in Chicago.
"Chicago is the greatest team probably in the history of the game," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "We don't have the right to say anything, or the right to posture. We have the right to play them."
New York never recovered from a Game 5 brawl that resulted in the suspension of five Knicks, including starters John Starks and Larry Johnson for Game 7. Guard Chris Childs symbolized the Knicks' frustration -- and lack of composure -- when he angrily kicked the ball into the stands midway through the final period.
Did the suspensions by the NBA for leaving the bench area during an altercation cost the Knicks the series?
"I'm going to take the high road on that stuff," coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
"People are going to make excuses for us. I don't think our players are looking for excuses. Our coaches aren't either. We just got beat today."
The Knicks stumbled into the off-season with their first three-game losing streak since November. Despite acquiring Childs, Johnson, Houston and Buck Williams last summer, New York was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Hardaway did the most damage by hitting six of 10 three-pointers, and his point total was a franchise playoff record. He had 18 points in the third quarter, when Miami's lead reached 71-50 even with Alonzo Mourning on the bench because of foul trouble.
"When I'm in that zone, you're at my mercy," Hardaway said.
"We said all along that he's the head of this basketball team," Williams said. "We tried to sever the head and hope the body would die. But today Hardaway shot the ball like he was on the playground."
When New York closed to 92-85 with 1: 13 left, Miami hit nine of 12 free throws the rest of the way.
Patrick Ewing led New York with 37 points and 17 rebounds. But Ewing, who had promised a championship this year, instead remains without a ring after 12 NBA seasons.
"In a way I feel robbed, but that's life," said Ewing, who was suspended for Game 6 because he left the bench during the Game 5 melee from which Miami's P.J. Brown was suspended for two games. "I don't feel like I did anything to deserve to be suspended, but that's the way the NBA is."
With New York short-handed, the Heat became just the second team in 16 years to overcome a 3-1 series deficit. Houston did it against Phoenix in 1995.
"All I know," Riley said, "is the last team that came back from 3-1 won a world championship."
Miami finished off New York from long range, hitting 11 of 24 three-pointers. Mourning, who had one three-pointer during the regular season, made his second in as many games. Isaac Austin added the first of his career.
A sellout crowd of 14,870 was perhaps the loudest, most enthusiastic in Miami basketball history. Fans even gave a standing ovation to the oft-maligned Mourning.
He had 22 points and 12 rebounds despite missing 16 minutes with foul trouble.
Houston scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half. The Knicks were burned by 20 turnovers that led to 26 Miami points.
Pub Date: 5/19/97